The Cliff House by Sergio Chinelli Architects sits amongst the forest, in perfect harmony with nature.

Cliff House | Sergio Chinelli Architects

Sergio Chinelli Architects has a reputation for designing bespoke residences in remote, beautiful natural areas. Chinelli’s clients seek him out for his design ethos. He believes that to produce the best work, the relationship between a client and their architect requires a particular level of trust.

This held true for the Cliff House project. Having designed a home for the clients previously, Sergio Chinelli had a clear vision when they approached him to create a family home in a remote area of the Garden Route.

The project faced several challenges, including zoning law height restrictions and permits required to work within the land’s protected forest. The sea view, the main drawcard of building a house in this spot, meant that the house also needed to be Southern facing.

 The upper-level features an entirely open plan kitchen, dining room and living area, and a covered terrace entertainment area. Designed by Sergio Chinelli Architects
The upper-level features an entirely open plan kitchen, dining room and living area, and a covered terrace entertainment area.

This created a further challenge as the house would get minimal direct sunlight. Sergio Chinelli Architects took both challenges head-on and designed an inverted two-story structure that would sink into the cliff face. They would cut back into the cliff on the Norther façade, letting the light in and creating a courtyard space for the owners’ children to play in.

The finished project is a spectacular vision of glass, concrete, and wood, as a nod to the forest. The upper-level features an entirely open plan kitchen, dining room and living area, and a covered terrace entertainment area. The inside and outside meet when the large glass wall rolls away, making the upper level fully free-flowing. After removing the wall, you see the sea view from every angle and every position.

The finished project is a spectacular vision of glass, concrete, and wood, as a nod to the forest.

The lower floor is forest facing, with undulating bedrooms cantilevered over the retaining wall. Each room has two or more windows allowing 180-degree views of the forest and sea. It houses a pyjama lounge opening onto the courtyard, two children’s bedrooms, the main bedroom, and a sitting area. Balconies would be impractically difficult to clean considering the environment, so instead, each room features large sliding doors which open to a frameless piece of glass giving the effect of a balcony.

The house is 40% glass, mostly facing the sea, so the glazing needed to be incredibly structurally sound and able to resist the wind loads it would meet. The house’s concrete construction is anchored into the cliff face providing structural integrity. Sergio Chinelli Architects took great care to make the house as efficient and self-sufficient as possible. It contains a stormwater harvest system and is mainly run on solar power. The Cliff House is a marvel, meeting its environment in harmony both aesthetically and functionally. Chinelli’s belief that a house is “a looking glass into experiencing landscapes” has manifested fully in the beauty of the Cliff House.

  • Sergio Chinelli Architects Project Lead: Sergio Chinelli
  • Engineer: Mario Heyns and Partners
  • Main Contractor: Wild Eagle Construction
  • Interiors: The Home Studio
  • Photographer: Colin Stephenson

Get our Summer issue for our full feature on the development and design of the Cliff House, available in stores from 1 December 2021